Mike Marchant of Arnold's Home improvement measures a window at the Sylvania Township home of Larry and Sharon Roan. The Roans had vinyl windows and a french door installed.
The Blade/Jetta Fraser
Leaves are scattered throughout the front lawn of Larry and Sharon Roan’s Sylvania Township home. A flag displaying pumpkins and hay flaps from the garage, signaling the arrival of fall.
The one place you won’t find the most defining characteristic of the season is inside the home, which was revamped with new windows and french doors. The brisk chill that lingers in the air doesn’t stand a chance of creeping inside.
“My wife wanted to get away from those cold, drafty windows,” said Mr. Roan, 75, who opted for temperature-controlled windows that are made with low-E glass and filled with argon gas.
The Roans dropped $7,700 on the home-maintenance project, which was aimed at making their home warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, and quieter year-round. Typically adverse to spending that kind of money, Mr. Roan said he has been more than pleased with the results.
“I’m not a spender of money, so this was a big decision for me,” he said.
Americans have increased the amount they spend on home maintenance across the country. In that category, consumer spending was $7.6 billion higher in the second quarter of 2012 than it was in the second quarter of 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Consumers have spent almost 14 percent more in 2012 than they did by this time in 2010. The boom has meant big business for local contractors who say they’ve increased profits and created jobs.
“It’s very true that because of the real estate market that people are looking inward and redoing their homes as opposed to selling them,” said Mike Marchant, the general manager of Arnold’s Home Improvement of Toledo, which redid the Roans' home.
Fall is the busiest season for Arnold’s, which has 25 to 30 simultaneous jobs on the books. The company already beat its 2011 profits in August and is on track to do 25 to 35 percent more business than last year, Mr. Marchant said.
“For the last 10 years in a row, we’ve increased from one year [to another],” he said.
Arnold’s has about 50 employees and doesn’t anticipate slowing down in 2013. If this fall is any indication, it could be a case to ramp up hiring, Mr. Marchant said.
“With us, we don’t ever expect to be less busy,” he said. “I can say for sure it’s going to be better.”
At A+ Building Maintenance and Home Repair of Toledo, work also has been on the rise and the company has had its best year to date, General Manager Glenn Carpenter said. Bathroom remodels and painting are two of A+’s biggest jobs, he said.
“It comes down to the way the business is run, and it all comes down to customer service,” Mr. Carpenter said, adding that A+ should exceed last year’s business by 15 to 20 percent.
Part of the upswing in home maintenance is because of an interest in weatherizing homes, which ensures a home doesn’t lose as much heat during the winter and stays cooler in the summer.
The trend has taken off in recent years because of an influx of federal stimulus dollars and a desire among homeowners to reduce their bills. Federal income tax credits for weatherization projects also served as an enticement to homeowners. Those credits expired in 2011 because they were not renewed by Congress.
The lasting effect of the stimulus funding and tax credits can bee seen in the growth of programs to insulate attics, walls, and crawl spaces and replace broken windows, furnaces, and hot water heaters. They are prevalent in most states and are in action throughout Ohio.
The state received $266.8 million from the federal government in 2009 for weatherization programs and has spent all but about $1 million thus far, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That funding expires at the end of the month, the department reported.
Ohio weatherized about 40,000 households with those funds from July 1, 2009, to March 31, 2012. The average amount spent on each household was $5,493, according to the Ohio Department of Development, which administered the funds.
Prior to the federal funding, the state was able to help weatherize 7,087 households in 2008.
NeighborWorks Toledo Region, formerly Neighborhood Housing Services, administered the stimulus dollars from the Ohio Department of Development in Toledo and was able to service about 1,700 homes. The organization received about $10.6 million for a two-year period, which ballooned its budget and ability to help homeowners.
“That gave us the ability to service more people, but it didn’t really change the flow of applications coming in,” said William Farnsel, executive director of NeighborWorks. “What we’re dealing with now is a reduced amount of money but the same number of applications. We are working with fewer people now.”
NeighborWorks has $967,000 to weatherize homes this year, which should allow the organization to work on up to 230 homes. The typical amount spent on each project is $6,500, Mr. Farnsel said.
The organization is waiting to hear if it will receive additional funds from the federal government, which could bolster its budget to $1.4 million. That increase would be a substantial help, Mr. Farnsel said.
“Before last April, we were using federal stimulus funds,” he said. “The amount of money available to us was quadrupled.”
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